My latest discovery about the ClayMill Extruder is that it can produce a natural wood grain texture; I mean a tangible texture, not just a color pattern. Here are some examples:
The seesaw above has steel chairs with a little magnet in them. To balance the seesaw I added shot from the tumbler to each stainless steel seat. The shot stuck to the magnet until full balance was achieved.
The bail in the pulley above is also extruded with the ClayMill. By the way, both pieces are projects in the upcoming revised edition of my book Movement and Mechanisms in Metal Clay. Deadline for submissions is July 15.
You may ask: “For these projects I need just one log, but I can’t extrude just one log. What am I going to do with the rest of them?”
I have three answers to this question:
A. You can never extrude too many logs, because there are so many things you can do with them. You can make bails for “quilts,” earrings with thorns or leaves, a necklace with crawling creatures…. How about a wooden bridge? If I ever write a book about architectural jewelry, I would certainly like to include a wooden bridge.
B. In a recent intensive, 9 people each needed one log. Each person contributed just one 6-card circle of copper to build a big stack of circles. We ended up with exactly the number of logs that we needed. So, this is a great idea for a Clay Date or a workshop: each person contributes a small amount and gets exactly what they need.
C. You can use up the stack as in the following project.
This project also shows you how to use the leftover clay.
1. Find a washer, at any hardware store, with a 9-10 mm hole. (This size does not come with the extruder, at least not yet).
2. Tape the washer to the back of the die with the circular hole.
Some clarification may be required here. Some die sets of the smaller extruder come with a 10 mm hole. So why can’t we use the smaller extruder?
The answer is, that to create a wood grain texture we need to use a tube adapter. In the photo below you see the tube adapter of the smaller extruder behind a 9 mm hole.
The holes of the tube adapter show through the circular hole. That means that instead of extruding a tube, you will end up extruding 4 snakes (the number of holes in the adapter). You can read about it in my book: Patterns of Color in Metal Clay, p. 58, in a project showing how to create a wood grain color pattern.
For a tube to be extruded, the holes of the tube adapter must be invisible. It is impossible to make such a tube adapter for small extruders (trust me, I tried).
To extrude wood grain logs with the big extruder we can adjust the size of the hole by taping different washers behind it. For the seesaw and the pulley I used the original hole of the existing die.
3. Cut circles, slightly smaller than 2″ in diameter, of copper clay and Creative Paper Clay (other paper clays are not recommended because of their consistency). The copper circles should be 6 cards thick; the paper circles, 2 cards thick. Make a stack of alternating copper and paper clay circles.
Note: To extrude a few tubes you only need half of this amount. For a full bracelet you need at least 6 circles of each. The total weight of this stack, including paper clay and water, was 150 grams. That means that I used about one jar of copper for this bracelet.
4. Mount the tube adapter. Attach a screw mandrel to the center hole. Alternatively, just cover the back of the hole with a penny. What we want is to prevent clay from coming out through this hole.
5. Extrude the stack. Cut the extruded 40″ tube into tubes of different or equal lengths.
6. Play with the logs: bend them, pinch, and twist them. They will look more natural. Then let them dry.
7. While they are drying, unload the extruder. There will be a leftover layer locked between the die and the tube adapter, exactly the width of the O ring. Release this layer carefully, without distorting it. Cut as many circles as possible out of this layer. Cut a small hole in the middle of each circle.
The photo shows how many circles I cut out of this layer. I was going to use them as spacers but they ended up too big. I sanded and fired them. The photo below shows fired spacers that I collected from several extrusions.
The photo below shows charming spacers that resulted from one extrusion of a stack consisting of copper, bronze, and steel. Click on the photo to better see the colors.
8. Back to the tubes: sand them until the wood grain pattern appears.
9. Drill a side hole in the center of each tube.
10. Fire the logs at high-fire schedule. Copper can be fired 50°F/30°C higher for best strength.
11. To finish the logs, all you need to do is buff them with a coarse mini-fiber wheel (see the document entitled “Personal Toolkit” in the right-hand pane of this blog).
12. Assemble the bracelet.